Sarah is here to help house buyers and sellers get to grips with the conveyancing process. This month, she explains how moving home is being affected by the coronavirus pandemic…
Everything in the world at the moment, including conveyancing, is being impacted by Covid-19. The government guidance states that, assuming you do not need to pull out of a property transaction, all parties involved should stay at home, practise social distancing and try to adapt and be as flexible as possible.
The property I am buying is vacant. Can I still move in?
You can complete the sale or purchase of a property that is empty and clear, provided you follow government guidelines with regards to home removals.
You can also continue to purchase a rental property or second home that you do not need to move into, or any form of investment property, whether vacant or occupied by a tenant. There is no issue with these transactions proceeding, as long as no one is physically required to move.
I am ready to complete on a property occupied by a family. How will my purchase be affected by the current situation?
The guidance is very different if the property you want to buy is occupied or part of a chain.
The government is urging all parties involved in these situations to try to agree on an alternative moving date.
However, there may be a number of reasons why the timescale cannot be changed and a transaction of this type will need to complete during the lockdown. If this is the case, you need to be aware that most estate agents and removal companies are not currently working.
Speak to your solicitor to ensure adequate arrangements are in place for collecting keys on the day of completion and transporting furniture and personal items safely. You must observe social distancing at all times.
If it becomes necessary for you to self-isolate during your transaction, contact your solicitor who will inform the rest of the parties in your chain of your change in position.
I have exchanged contracts, but would like to delay completion until the restrictions are lifted. Is this possible?
Where possible, if contracts have been exchanged and a legally binding completion date fixed, the government wants all parties to work together to agree a delay or come up with alternative arrangements to resolve the matter, whilst following the coronavirus guidance.
My property transaction is relatively early stage. Will my solicitor still be working on it?
The solicitor handling your case will continue to progress your matter, so that as soon as the restrictions lift, you are ready to exchange and look at a completion date. Meanwhile, financial institutions are extending mortgage offers by three months to allow parties to delay their move.
If your transaction falls into one of the categories that we are able to progress, you need to be aware that exchange and completion will happen on the same day. As the situation is changing so rapidly, this is necessary to ensure you are not caught out by new regulations or another party’s altered circumstances, which could prevent the move and leave you in breach of contract.
Once the crisis is over, there could be a large number of people looking to exchange and complete in a relatively short period of time. Bear this in mind when you are arranging a completion date.
I am considering selling my property, but have not yet put it on the market. Should I wait a few more weeks?
You will still be able to speak to estate agents on the phone for advice on how to market your property and potentially advertise it online, however, it will be difficult for viewings to take place at this time.
If your home is already on the market, it may be possible for the estate agent to set up virtual viewings, so people can see inside whilst the current restrictions are in place. You are still free to accept or make offers on any advertised property.
If you have a question about moving home, our residential property expert, Sarah Gaunt, would love to hear from you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org